A few small changes can have a big impact on our health. Sound familiar? But this time we’re not just referring to the meals and mindful eating practices of which you’ve grown familiar. Let’s also incorporate few small changes to our evening routine to improve that other barometer of great health: our sleep.
One third of American adults don’t sleep enough. Lack of sleep (under seven hours a night) leads to an array of health problems, ranging from a weak immune system to an increased risk of heart disease. Plus, when tired, our bodies overproduce the stress hormone cortisol, which accelerates aging, increases irritability, and attention span decreases.
Good sleep hygiene is essential. Create an evening routine that will help you relax and switch off. Here’s how to get to sleep soundly, so you wake up feeling Splendid:
Dim the Lights
The hormone melatonin helps control your sleep cycle. Melatonin reacts to light: it’s levels are high when dark so you can sleep, and low when it’s bright. One hour before bed, turn off overhead lights, turn on side lights, and stop using any blue light-emitting devices (blue light has the shortest wavelengths and highest energy of all the light rays, and is emitted in significant amounts from digital devices). When it’s time to hit the hay, your room should be as dark as possible. The easiest solution? Wear an eye mask.
Clear Your Space
Don’t use your bedroom as an office — it should be a restful sanctuary. If you need to work in the evening, tackle it early on. The hour before sleep should be stress-free. Leave your phone in a different room so you aren’t tempted to scroll through your emails/social media/news/shopping cart. If you use your phone as an alarm, put it on airplane mode.
Keep a notepad and pen by your bed. When an idea comes up that you want to email out immediately, write it down instead. It will be there for you in the morning, and won’t interrupt your sleep cycle.
De-clutter your bedroom. Studies show that messy bedrooms negatively affect your sleep. Tidy your room before you climb into bed so your mind can be at ease as you drift off.
Don’t get too warm and cozy: the optimum sleeping temperature is 60–67ºF. Take a hot bath or shower before going to bed: heating up your body, and then gradually allowing it to cool will help you fall asleep. For a super calming nighttime ritual, add some essential oils to the bath or shower. Your pajamas could also be the cause of your insomnia. Always wear pajamas made of natural, breathable material, or sleep naked, so you don’t overheat.
Check Your Diet
That late-night cup of joe has predictable effects on sleep quality. But studies show that caffeine can negatively impact sleep even 6 hrs pre-bedtime. The safe bet? Shut off the caffeine spigot by 2pm.
Try to eat three hours before going to bed: you won’t doze off easily if you’re trying to digest a heavy meal. That doesn’t mean go to bed hungry! If you need a nighttime snack, choose one that’s rich in protein and complex carbs, such as an apple, banana, or some nuts.
Alcohol may seem like a good solution to help you drift off. And while it might, you’ll be tossing and turning later in the night, when you should be in the deepest sleep. Swap the nightcap for a cup of herbal tea. Try chamomile to soothe nerves or peppermint to ease digestion.
Create a self-care-filled nighttime routine to calm yourself at the end of the day, and signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. An hour before bed is the best time to write a gratitude journal, do a few restorative yoga poses, practice some breathing exercises, and read a (non-work related) book. Make it your intention to rest so you gradually slip into sleep mode, and ward off sleep dread.
Just as you would create a nighttime routine for a child, create one for yourself: dim the lights, cool your bedroom, turn off your phone, clear your space, have a bath, sip on a cup of tea, journal, and, finally, turn out the lights and put that eyemask on. Focus on your evening rituals so you have a successful morning. People who sleep longer live happier and healthier lives: let’s make sure we’re part of that crew.